Sunday, July 31, 2011

Violence against Christians in Sri Lanka

Several Christians were assaulted and threatened throughout Sri Lanka in recent weeks, reports the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL).

A pastor was assaulted after attending a meeting convened by a Buddhist monk in Ampara District, Eastern Province, on July 10.

During the meeting, which was in regard to land distribution, the pastor was assaulted by the monk and others present. The monk kicked the pastor, resulting in serious injuries to his arm and stomach. The assailants later followed the pastor to his home and continued to verbally abuse him and members of his family.

On July 19, a mob of approximately 50 people attacked the homes of five Christian families in Badulla District in Uva Province.

The assailants threw stones which damaged the roofs and broke windows with clubs and rocks. Some families fled in fear to the jungle and waited for the attack to abate. A grocery shop belonging to one of the families was demolished and goods were stolen. The shop owner was also seriously injured. At last report there were plans to force these Christian families to renounce Christianity or leave the village.

You can help by praying!
  • Pray for healing for those injured in these attacks.
  • Pray these Christians will not become fearful but will trust the Lord in all things.
  • Pray the Lord will continue to make Sri Lankan Christians strong to lovingly and boldly proclaim the gospel amid persecution (Ephesians 6:18-20).

Saturday, July 30, 2011

New restrictions on religious freedom in Tajikistan

Pray for religious freedom
in Tajikistan!
The Upper Chamber of Tajikistan's Parliament recently adopted two legal measures that will further restrict religious freedom, particularly the religious education of children, reports Forum 18 News.

On July 21, a new Parental Responsibility Law was passed, banning almost all children under 18 from participating in religious activity. At the same time, an amendment to the Criminal Code was passed to punish organizers of "extremist religious" teaching—an unidentified concept that could easily be applied against Christian leaders.

Both of the new legal measures—which still need to be signed by President Emomali Rahmon—come just two weeks after an amendment made to the country's Religion Law decreed tight restrictions on religious education abroad for children and adults.

Please pray!
  • Pray for an end to restrictions on religious freedom in Tajikistan.
  • Ask the Lord to continue to equip believers to make the most of every opportunity to share their faith.
  • Pray for wisdom for all believers in the nation as they serve Christ and witness to those who do not yet know Him as Lord.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Eritrean Christian could be deported from Saudi Arabia

A Christian man charged with proselytizing
in Saudi Arabia could be deported to Eritrea.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is reporting that an Eritrean Christian man who escaped the death penalty for proselytising in Saudi Arabia could be returned to Eritrea. If deported, Eyob Mussie could face imprisonment, torture and possible death.

Eritrea is a repressive nation which only recognizes four Christian communities. All others are subject to arbitrary imprisonment. The government often imprisons its own citizens who face deplorable conditions as well as torture.

Mussie, 33, was arrested on February 12, on charges of proselytizing, a Saudi capital offense.

You can read the full article here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Canadian kids raise funds for Bibles in China

Kids from Wetaskiwin, Alberta, raised money
to print and deliver Bibles in China.
In early July, Calvary Baptist Church in Wetaskiwin, Alberta, hosted a VBS program in its community. One of the organizers, Tammy Issler, suggested the kids gain experience in missions work by raising funds to print and deliver Bibles in China.

Tammy learned about the opportunity to provide Bibles to Chinese Christians in VOM's April newsletter and quarterly children’s magazine, where we reported that Bibles are still in great need in China, despite misleading reports that state otherwise (to subscribe to these free resources, click here).

Tammy’s kids in the VBS program were excited to get involved! They did chores around the home in exchange for money to go towards the donation. Her son, age 11, dried the dishes, vacuumed, cleaned the basement, straightened his room and mowed their large backyard. Meanwhile, Tammy’s daughter, age 8, cleaned the bathroom, folded and hung up laundry, and cleaned up her sister’s bedroom.

Approximately 37 children attended the program. They, too, responded enthusiastically to the challenge to raise funds for Bibles in China. During the one-week program, $590 was donated while another $360 was raised at the VBS’s closing evening event. The church’s Christian Education board matched the donated amount, meaning $1,900 was raised! This money will provide Christians in China the opportunity to read and study God’s Word.

Is your church hosting a VBS program this summer? Consider how you could encourage the kids in your church to sacrifice their time or allowance money to make a difference in the lives of their persecuted family around the world!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sudanese Christians remain at risk

South Sudan gained independence
on July 9, 2011.
(Sources: Middle East Concern, VOM)

On July 9, Sudan and South Sudan officially became separate nations - a separation in accordance with a referendum held in January (click here for more information). The secession comes after a long history of violence and conflict, including two civil wars between the largely Islamic north and the Christian and animist majority in the south. Christians, in particular, have endured severe opposition.

Although many people, from Sudanese Christians to international leaders, have expressed hope over the South's independence, it is clear that the people on both sides of the new border continue to be at risk of violence and religious freedom violations.

In the months leading up to the secession, clashes erupted in several areas. Government agents and Islamic militants looted churches and killed Christians in regions of South Kordofan state. There remain concerns that churches in the Sudan may face further restrictions on their freedom of worship if the government implements a strict form of Shariah, or Islamic, law. With Christians continuing to flee to South Sudan, it is also feared that remaining believers in the north could be especially vulnerable to violence, pressure, and baseless accusations of defaming Islam.

Please pray!
  • Pray that Sudanese Christians will be examples of justice, peace and love as their nation navigates through this chapter of transition. 
  • Pray that the government of Sudan will listen to the concerns of the international community and recognize the importance of religious freedom. 
  • Pray that Christians in both Sudan and South Sudan will continue to entrust themselves to Christ knowing Jesus is the ruler over the kings of the earth (2 Timothy 1:7-12, Revelation 1:5).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Voice of the Martyrs launches petition for Asia Bibi

The Voice of the Martyrs USA has launched a web campaign calling for the release of Asia Bibi.

Asia Bibi, a Pakistani woman, was arrested in June 2009 on charges of blasphemy. After a lengthy trial, Asia was sentenced to death. The ruling has been appealed, but she remains in prison.

Visit the Call for Mercy website to fill in the petition. VOM-USA will deliver the petition and the list of signers to the Pakistani Embassy in Washington DC.

The petition reads, “I, the undersigned, respectfully request the immediate release of Asia Bibi from prison in Pakistan and the dismissal of her blasphemy conviction and death sentence. We ask that you have mercy on our Christian sister. Please allow this wife and mother to be set free and to be reunited with her husband and children.”

As of July 25, 2011 there were over 186,500 signatures on the petition.

Since her arrest, VOM has supported Asia and her family. Join with us by signing and sharing the petition at!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Five Christians in Uttar Pradesh arrested on false charges

Several Christians were falsely accused of
forcibly converting people of other religions.
AsiaNews is reporting that police in Uttar Pradesh, India have arrested three pastors and a Christian couple on charges of allegedly trying to convert people of other religions.

On July 13, pastors AB Singh, Ganga Prasad, and Robert of the Gospel Messengers Team (GMT) led a weekly prayer meeting for about 150 Christians at the house of Om Prakash. At 11 a.m., a group of about 75 people led by known leaders of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party interrupted the meeting. They threatened everyone present and falsely accused the pastors of forcible conversion and paying people to attend the meeting.

The police arrived shortly after, arresting the pastors along with Om Prakash and his wife.

Hundreds of supporters appeared at the police office to declare the prisoners’ innocence. The police had promised to release the Christians the same day.

To read the full article, please click here.

India has recently faced many bouts of Christian persecution. Learn more about the trials Christians have endured in India and how they have stood firm by checking out Indian Voices: Testimonies of the Persecuted, a 40-minute DVD. Click here to order your copy today for $10.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The gospel finds a way in North Korea; pray!

“Be of good courage, and let us be strong for our people and for the
cities of our God. And may the LORD do what is good in His sight.”
2 Samuel 10:12

A VOM-supported discipleship-training project is preparing North Koreans who have left their country to share the gospel with countrymen when they return home.

“Mr. Kim” was an orphan who had no money, no home and no hope. After fleeing North Korea, he walked to the first house he saw. The family who lived there had compassion on him because they had witnessed the brutal and inhumane way the police treat North Korean refugees.

Soon, Mr. Kim accepted Christ and joined the discipleship-training program. He and two other men in the training say they are thankful for Christians around the world who pray for them and help them.

Please continue to pray for courageous Christians who dare to take the gospel into this dark nation.

Excerpted from VOM USA’s weekly email prayer alert.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hungary takes step backward in religious freedom

Communism may have ended over 20 years ago in Hungary, but a recently passed law shows a continuing dictatorial mindset. The Institute on Religion and Public Policy reports a new Religion Law passed on July 12 could have serious repercussions for Christians and their churches.

The new law will strip over one hundred currently registered religious organizations of their status. Only 14 religious organizations will retain their status while “de-registered” churches will lose their rights and privileges.

The pastor of an evangelical church responded with sadness. "This is the greatest discrimination against evangelical Christians since the fall of Communism. This is just the first step against real, active, Bible-believing Christian groups. During Communism we were oppressed and persecuted, but we didn't expect the same from a so-called ‘Christian’ government,” he said.

Those churches which find themselves unregistered will not be allowed to use the name “church” and the process of re-registering is long and burdensome.

You can read the entire report here.

Words from our founder: Two kinds of love

VOM founder, Richard Wurmbrand
There are two kinds of love: “love because of” the good and beautiful in a person, and “love in spite” of all that this person does to puzzle and hurt us. Obviously, “love in spite of” is superior. It is the most exquisite jewel to be found in the universe. God loves us in spite of our sins. Jesus loved His torturers in spite of what they did to Him.

We can love God not only because of the splendid things that enchant us in the universe, but also in spite of the sufferings we encounter. Without pain in this world, the highest form of love could not exist. This love is worth its price.

Excerpted from Richard Wurmbrand’s book, Proofs of God’s Existence. You can order this book from our online catalogue here or by contacting our office. 

The Voice of the Martyrs was founded in the mid-1960s by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned and tortured by Communist authorities in his native Romania for 14 years. While still in prison, Pastor Wurmbrand envisioned a ministry that would focus on the plight of the persecuted Church, raise a voice on their behalf, and provide encouragement and assistance to them. For more information, please visit our website

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Christian students in New Mexico suspended for handing out doughnuts and Bible verses

A student group in the Roswell Independent School District in New Mexico went to extreme lengths to share the gospel with their teachers. But their gifts of Krispy Kreme donuts along with Bible verses were not received graciously, reports Charisma Magazine.

A Christian student group called Relentless drove an almost six-hour round trip to the closest Krispy Kreme shop in Texas. They made it back to school on time to deliver the donuts along with a Scripture verse with each one.

The response to their kindness: suspension. One student was immediately sent home while two others were punished by having to spend four hours alone in a classroom Saturday morning.

The Liberty Counsel has filed a lawsuit with the district.

"Some teachers are worried about their students giving them bullets, and this school suspends students over a Bible verse! These students are living their Christian beliefs by showing kindness,” says Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel and dean of Liberty University School of Law.

The full story can be found here.

What’s your response to the story of these young people? If you were the parent of a member of Relentless, what would you say to your son or daughter after a situation like this? Would you take part in evangelistic efforts like these in your school or workplace? Why or why not? 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Imprisoned Lao pastor’s condition worsens

Two pastors in Laos have been
in jail for six months for holding
a “secret meeting.”
Two pastors remain in prison in Laos, reports Compass Direct News (CDN). Eleven Christians, including pastors Wanna and Yohan, both from unregistered churches, were arrested in Khammouan Province in January.

The Christians were arrested at gunpoint for holding a “secret meeting” after they celebrated Christmas without prior governmental approval. Nine of the prisoners, including two children, were released within days of their arrest.

The pastors, who have remained in jail since the incident, have been told they may walk free as soon as they sign documents renouncing their faith, advocacy group Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom said in a press statement on July 8.

Pastor Wanna’s family members recently visited him in jail. They said he has lost weight, has contracted an infection, and appears to be extremely weak. The families of both pastors, who rely on the financial support of the men, are appealing for advocacy.

You can read more about this case and the conditions in Laos in CDN’s full article here.

Pray for Christians in Laos!
  • Pray for Pastor Wanna’s health. Pray he will recover from his infection and that his health will improve during his time in jail.
  • Pray the Lord will provide for the needs of the families of both Pastor Wanna and Pastor Yohan.
  • Pray the pastors’ jailers will see their faith and be brought to a knowledge of their Saviour.

Christian persecution in Venezuela subtle, but definitely present

Persecution in Venezuela is subtle,
but could get much worse.
VOM spokesman Greg Musselman recently spoke with Mission Network News (MNN) regarding the Venezuelan government’s subtle oppression of the nation’s Christians.

Over the last year, the government has shifted away from overt forms of Christian persecution to pressuring pastors and Christian leaders, said Musselman.

“We don't see the more demonstrative persecution--church buildings set on fire, or people thrown into prison,” said Musselman.

He spoke with Venezuelan church leader Colonel Nelson Castro, who said it might not stay that way for long.

"I firmly believe that there is going to be a law passed that will modify the way churches gather, and there will be a price to pay. I think that is what is ahead,” said Castro.

The “minor” forms of persecution taking place right now are crafted in such a way to keep the country off the radar of religious freedom watchdogs.

People are losing jobs. Church buildings are being closed down and are unable to meet. It looks like there’s freedom for Christians, but that’s not the case.

“You can have Christian radio stations in Venezuela IF you agree to some very strict regulations. One of those regulations is that you cannot speak out in any way against the government,” said Musselman.

Churches that are not in alliance with the government aren’t granted licenses or permits to build or renovate. Pressures like these make it easier for Christians to compromise.

Colonel Castro says, "Preaching the Gospel will always bring consequences, but we have to continue to preach Christ as Jesus as our King, no matter what that brings."

For the full report, click here.

Pray for the church in Venezuela!
  • Pray the church and its leaders will be strong in the face of persecution and difficulty.
  • Pray leaders will prepare their people with what the Bible says about persecution and difficulty.
  • Pray that the church in Venezuela will mature.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

First church in 8 years opens in Kirkuk, Iraq

Despite threats, first new church
in 8 years opens in Kirkuk, Iraq. 
Despite threats against them, hundreds of Iraqi Christians celebrated the opening of their new church in Kirkuk, the first to be built in eight years, reports Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA).

Al-Qaida and militant groups linked to it have increased threats and attacks against Christians in Iraq, who make up less than 3 percent of the nation’s population. Most Christians have left the country or have been forced to move from their hometowns due to continuous attacks. It is estimated that there are now less than half a million Christians living in Iraq.

“This church, and our presence here to celebrate its birth, is the strongest message that we are staying in our land,” said Fawziya Hanna.

Saint Paul’s is the first newly built church to open since 2003. The church was built on land donated by the government and was constructed through money from various donors, including President Jalal Talabani.

Christian families in Iraq have faced a host of threats and violence recently. In October, approximately 60 people died in a Baghdad church hostage-taking by a group with links to al-Qaida (for more information on this attack, click here). The UN High Commission for Refugees said 1,000 families left Baghdad and Mosul in the two months following the attack.

Overall, violence in Iraq has declined since its peak in 2006, but Christians still continually face threats of death and kidnapping.

You can read the full article here and learn more about Iraq at our persecution report here.

At least six churches attacked in Senegal

Violence against churches increases in
Muslim-dominated Senegal, West Africa.
The World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA-RLC) is calling on the government of Senegal, West Africa to investigate attacks on churches that occurred during recent protests over constitutional amendments.

Protests erupted on June 23 after President Abdoulaye Wade’s government proposed a bill which would change the current requirement of a 50 per cent vote to become president to 25 per cent so Wade could remain in power.

The same day, at least six churches were attacked by mobs. WEA Executive Director, Godfrey Yogarajah, said it is clear the attacks had nothing to do with the protests and were clearly planned and organized to take advantage of the situation.

Some Protestant congregations are accused of having links with foreign groups and are therefore viewed with suspicion. However, in these particular instances, there seems to be no sign of immediate provocation.

Violence of this magnitude is a new development for the Muslim-dominated region. The WEA-RLC urges the government investigate the attacks and nip such violence against Christians in the bud.

You can read WEA-RLC’s entire article here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

This week in church history: The martyrdom of Moiseyev

The following was written by Dan Graves for

In the last letter that he wrote home, Ivan Moiseyev (known to friends and family as Vanya) urged his brother Vladimir, "Don't tell our parents everything. Just tell them, 'Vanya wrote me a letter and writes that Jesus Christ is going into battle. This is a Christian battle, and he doesn't know whether he will be back.' I desire that all of you, dear friend, young and old, remember this one verse. Revelation 2:10 – 'Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.'" The next day, July 16, 1972, twenty-year-old Vanya died in suspicious circumstances. The Soviets claimed it was an accidental drowning. His family insisted that Vanya was tortured to death.

The son of peasant farmers, Vanya entered the army at eighteen to perform two years of required military training and service. Because he spoke openly of God, which was forbidden in the atheistic regime, Vanya was persecuted by his military supervisors.

His letters home and the tape recordings that he made on his last leave home, documented the cruelties used against him. At times he was starved. He was awakened and interrogated night after night, and often struck. For two weeks in the dead of winter, he was compelled to stand outside in his thin Summer uniform. He claimed that God miraculously warmed him. ...

Vanya was an army chauffer. When every effort failed to break him of his faith, he was ordered to chauffer some KGB men. He did not return. A coffin arrived at his parents' home, welded shut. Vanya's mother insisted it be opened. A brother, who belonged to the Communist party resisted, but the rest of the family prevailed. Vanya was barely recognizable. Witnesses, Christian and non-Christian alike, signed a statement which declared that his chest had been burned. His face and body were lumped and bruised. Heel marks marred his body. His heart was punctured in six places.

Under Communist pressure, the non-Christians withdrew their testimony. The Soviet's claimed that the six heart punctures were from attempts to restart the heart with adrenaline after a drowning accident and that the other marks were from an autopsy. They claimed the Baptists made up the torture story to discredit the regime. However, in light of thousands of other incidents of mistreatment of Christians in the Soviet union, and given Vanya's letters and recordings, the Baptist story is the more believable of the two. To cap matters off, Vanya's unit was broken up because so many men in it had become Christians.

To read other accounts of faithful servants suffering persecution throughout history, please visit

Christian man in India accused of forced conversion

A Christian man in India has been accused
of forcibly converting a 14-year-old boy.
A Christian man from Alagandi (Putturtaluk, Karnataka) has been accused of forcing a 14-year-old boy to convert to Christianity, reports the Global Council of Indian Christians.

Militants went to the house of Praveen Lancy D’Souza, 29, to arrest him for allegedly forcing the conversion of Karthik, a boy who had come to Praveen seeking refuge and shelter from his abusive step-mother.

During Karthik’s three-month stay in Praveen’s home, he observed Praveen’s parents and four siblings praying together as a small group. Karthik, grateful for the D’Souza’s generosity, found work nearby to help support himself.

Extremists in the area heard about the situation from Karthik’s parents and, along with several police, searched for Praveen at the D’Souza’s house. Not finding Praveen, who was at work at the time, the officers arrested his younger brother, Melwin. They warned Mr. and Mrs. D’Souza that unless Praveen surrendered himself, Melwin would not be released.

Praveen surrendered himself to police on Saturday, July 2. He remains in prison until a hearing is scheduled to deal with charges of kidnapping and forced conversion.

You can read the full article here.

India has recently faced many bouts of Christian persecution. Learn more about the trials Christians have endured in India and how they have stood firm by checking out the India edition of our Restricted Nations series, Restricted Nations: India. Click here to order your copy today for $7.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Two missionaries in India arrested

Murli Ghulam, pictured here with his family,
spent a day in jail after being accused of
forcibly converting people to Christianity.
(Photo: Gospel for Asia)
Two missionaries in India supported by Gospel for Asia (GFA) were arrested on Saturday, July 2, according to a report from the organization.

Missionary Murli Ghulam was arrested for forcibly converting individuals to Christianity after he led a prayer meeting for 25 people. The police were led by an anti-Christian extremist group to the home of a local believer where the meeting was taking place. The service was broken up and Murli was arrested on the spot.

When questioned by police he explained that he was not forcing anyone to change faiths. He was released the next day.

Pastor Rahul Akkunj was arrested the same day as Murli and falsely charged with being a member of a well-known rebel group. The allegations against Pastor Rahul follow a prayer and fasting meeting he led at his church. Locals who heard about the service felt threatened by the church’s growth, saying that if it continued at its current rate their traditional religion may be eradicated.

Pastor Rahul’s district leader went to the jail where he was being held and attempted to post bail on his behalf. The local authorities refused, saying the charges against Rahul necessitate he remain in jail until a court hearing.

The full article can be found here.

Pray for believers in India!
  • Ask God to bless Pastor Rahul and his witness while in prison.
  • Pray with his friends and family that the Lord will speak into the heart of the judge.
  • Pray with Murli and believers in his village for the salvation of those who oppose Christianity.

Religious freedom: A complicated and bumpy ride

How should Christians respond to threats
against religious freedom in Canada? 
“Without religious freedom, all other freedoms are fake. What good is freedom of speech if you can’t express what you believe? What’s the point of freedom of association if the state restricts consciences and thus the whole point of associating?”

Jim Tonkowich from Oxford House Research asks these very questions in his article on Crosswalk exploring religious freedom today. While focusing specifically on the USA, his piece on religious freedom is certainly relevant for Christians in Canada as well.

Tonkowich highlights three incidents which, in his opinion, demonstrate the “neither merry nor bright” future of religious freedom:

  • The federal court ruling that New York City may forbid churches from using school buildings for worship.
  • The banning of male circumcision, a religious ritual for Jews and Muslims, in Santa Monica and California. 
  • The closure of Catholic Charities, an adoption and foster care organization that shut their doors rather than violate their religious convictions by placing children with same-sex couples.

“The story of religious freedom in America ... [is] a complicated and bumpy ride – sometimes expanding, sometimes contracting,” Tonkowich points out. “The new circumstance we face is a growing hostility to orthodox religious believers in the public square. It’s a threat all religious believers must face seriously and together, knowing that with diligence and with God’s grace, the end of the story could surprise us all.”

You can read the full report here.

What do you think? Are the above incidents causes for concern? In what ways can Christians in the West approach religious freedom issues “seriously and together”? 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Iranian pastor’s death sentence verified

Pastor Youcef and his wife.
A written verdict from Iran's Supreme Court
confirms Pastor Youcef's death sentence.
(Photo: Present Truth Ministries)
Last week we told you about the uncertainty surrounding Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani’s possible death sentence. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has since been able to confirm that his appeal against the death sentence was unsuccessful.

CSW received a copy of a written verdict from the Supreme Court of Iran which upholds Pastor Youcef’s death sentence. While the verdict is dated June 12, 2011, Pastor Youcef’s lawyer was only given this written notification recently. When Pastor Youcef was initially tried for apostasy in September, a similar delay was made with regards to his guilty verdict.

There is no death sentence for apostasy in Iran’s penal code; however, the Supreme Court refuses to overturn the verdict seemingly for fear of potential controversy. The Supreme Court did request the court in Rasht, Pastor Youcef’s hometown, to re-examine some procedural flaws in the case but has still left Pastor Youcef’s fate in their hands.

Pastor Youcef was arrested in October 2009. Of the Church of Iran denomination, Pastor Youcef had been attempting to register his church. His arrest is believed to be based on his question of Muslim control of the religious instruction of Iranian children. He was initially charged with protesting, but the charges were later changed to apostasy and evangelizing Muslims.

Pastor Youcef’s lawyer, Mr. Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, a prominent human rights defender, has also been sentenced to 9 years in prison for allegedly acting against the Islamic regime.

CSW’s entire article can be found here.

You can help by praying!
  • Pray God will fill Pastor Youcef and his family with peace and that they will continue to stand on the Word, knowing that God protects His children.
  • Pray for those in charge of Pastor Youcef's case, that God would soften their hearts and cause them to overturn their decision.
  • Pray Iranian officials operating in corrupt and oppressive ways will repent of their actions and come to embrace Christ as Lord.

Christian couple accused of converting a minor in Israel

A neighbour confronts 16-year-old
Donna Lubofsky about her faith.
(Photo: Compass Direct)
A Jewish Christian couple in Israel has been targeted by an ultra-Orthodox group for allegedly manipulating minors into converting to Christianity, reports Compass Direct News.

The Jewish extremist group, Yad L’Achim, recently lost a court case against Serge and Naama Kogen in which they accused the couple of proselytizing minors. Since then, a full-page ad in the local newspaper told residents that the Kogens were part of a missionary group that was “targeting” the community. The ad also disclosed the Kogen’s address and invited residents to protest outside their home on Sunday, June 26. Approximately 20 people attended the demonstration, denouncing the Kogens over megaphones for over an hour and a half.

Donna Lubofsky, 16, the alleged target of the couple’s “missionary efforts,” said all of Yad L’Achim’s claims were false and attempted to speak out during the protest.

Donna maintains that she has not converted to Christianity and the Kogens have also emphasized the fact that they never discussed religion with her. Donna expressed interest on her own to attend the Kogen’s congregational worship and received permission from her mother to attend religious meetings with the Kogens for two months.

Around the time of her attendance, Donna faced a family spat and spent the night at the Kogen’s. Donna’s family then brought charges against the couple. Police investigated the charges, found nothing illegal, and dropped the case.

To read the full report, click here.

Please pray for this situation.

  • Pray Donna will see where the Kogen’s kindness comes from - the Saviour whom they serve.
  • Pray the Kogens will have the courage to continue to serve Christ despite the opposition from Yad L’Achim.
  • Pray the community will see Christ through this situation.

Iranian university student arrested for evangelizing

Iranian university student Mostafa Zangooyee
was arrested while leaving his home for
“propagating” the Christian faith.
(Photo: Mohabat News)
An Iranian university student, Mostafa Zangooyee, 24, was leaving his home recently when he was arrested by plain-clothes security officers, reports Mohabat News. The security officers contacted his parents informing them of the arrest.

The charges against Mostafa are evangelization and the propagation of the Christian faith on the university campus. Mostafa remains in custody and his whereabouts are unknown.

Recently, a government-managed newspaper in Iran reported that a university professor was fired for propagating Christianity at the university where he taught. The professor at the Free (Azad) University of Iran was fired from his teaching position for openly sharing his Christian faith with his students and coworkers. The newspaper warned its readers about the dangers and rapid growth of Christianity among university students and professors.

For the full report, please click here.

Pray for Christian university students and professors in Iran:

  • Pray Mostafa’s family will find out where he is being held and that he will soon be released.
  • Pray Christian university professors and students will be able to boldly share their faith.
  • Pray for those who have been witnessed to by Mostafa and other Christians. Pray God will open their hearts to the gospel.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Prisoner of Faith: Sun Minghua

Minghua has been imprisoned
for her faith since 2001.
In September 2001, Chinese believer Sun Minghua was arrested on suspicion of organizing and utilizing a cult organization to undermine law enforcement. At the time she was a council member in charge of finances for the South China Church (SCC).

Earlier that year, in April, the SCC was designated a "cult" by the ministry of Public Security. In the following months, the communist government tried to close SCC down by arresting more than 500 of its leaders.

However, these assaults did not stop church members from continuing in their "illegal missionary work." Even under the threat of arrest, the SCC continues expanding and increasing its membership. It is considered a relatively small house church in China, with approximately 100,000 members spread across 10 of China’s provinces.

A few months after her arrest, Sun was sentenced to life in prison. At a later high court hearing, this sentence was reduced to 12 years. She is scheduled to be released in 2014.

Please keep Sun in your prayers! Please also consider writing her a letter of encouragement, reminding her that her brothers and sisters in Christ have not forgotten her. 

When writing a letter, never mention the name of the source of your information or the name of any organization such as Voice of the Martyrs or Prisoner Alert. It is not dangerous for a prisoner to receive letters from individuals, but if an organization is mentioned they may be accused of links with “foreign organizations” and receive harsher sentences. Also, please do not state anything negative about their government.

For more information about writing letters to prisoners of faith, please visit our website at To compose a letter online using phrases in Sun’s language, check out Click on her profile and then click “Write an encouraging letter.”  

Please mail your letters to:
Sun Minghua
No. 5 Division, Section 2
Wuhan Female Prison
Wuhan City, Hubei Province 430032
People's Republic of China

Chinese pastor detained

Pastor Shi Enhao has not been
heard from since his arrest in June.
(Photo: China Aid)
Pastor Shi Enhao, vice-president of the Chinese House Church Alliance, was arrested on June 12 and hasn’t been heard from since, reports Release International, VOM’s sister mission in the UK.

Pastor Shi was first arrested on March 4 while he was preaching in Nanyang city. He was taken to Suqian city detention centre where he was reportedly beaten. He was released two days later.

Three days before Pastor Shi’s arrest, another Christian man and two Christian women were taken away from their church meeting in Hanzhen town by agents from the Domestic Security Protection Squad of Xiayi County. Along with Bibles and cash, the agents seized copies of a book entitled A Stormy Life by Pastor ”Bike” Zhang Mingxuan, president of the Chinese House Church Alliance. The Christians were interrogated for three hours, released, and warned not to associate with Pastor Bike.

VOM partner China Aid reports Pastor Shi was again detained on May 31. His house was raided the next day and police took various books and papers. A number of other church leaders were detained along with Pastor Shi, but most were released within 24 hours. Only Pastor Shi and a female leader, Chang Meiling, were given 12-day administrative-detention sentences.

The Sunday following the 12-day detention, Pastor Shi was released from custody but never made it home. Sources report he was immediately rearrested and taken to an unknown location. No word of him has been heard since.

Additional details regarding Pastor Shi’s sentence are available in China Aid’s full report here.

You can help by praying!
  • Pray Pastor Shi would, as the apostles, rejoice that he was counted worthy to suffer dishonor for His name (Acts 5:41).
  • Pray that those he was preaching to at the time of his initial arrest would be drawn closer to God.
  • Pray for Pastor Shi’s safety and release.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pastor charged for praying for the sick in Kazakhstan

Authorities have recently brought several
allegations against Christians in Kazakhstan.
Forum 18 News Service is reporting that a criminal case has been brought against a pastor in Kazakhstan for allegedly harming an individual’s health by praying for them.

The National Security Committee (KNB) secret police are charging Pastor Yerzhan Ushanov of the New Life Protestant Church in Taraz under Criminal Code Article 111 (“causing severe damage to health due to negligence”). After an alleged complaint of food poisoning, Extremism and Terrorism Police also raided the church’s Sunday service while the KNB searched Pastor Ushanov’s home.

"This is not the first time the authorities in southern regions of Kazakhstan bring such absurd accusations against pastors for allegedly using hypnosis, while in reality all they do is pray for the sick," New Life Church members told Forum 18. In April 2010, another pastor, Vissa Kim, was charged for allegedly harming a woman’s health by praying for her.

This latest incident adds to a long list of allegations against Christians by authorities in Kazakhstan. In June, we reported on two members of the Protestant Grace Church who were fined 100 times the minimum monthly wage for unregistered religious activity. Another pastor, Andrei Panafidin, was also fined 100 times the minimum monthly wage in recent months.

For the full brief of recent allegations against Christians in Kazakhstan, please read Forum 18’s article here.

To learn more about persecution in Kazakhstan, please visit our Country Report.

Bomb explodes at All Christian-Fellowship Mission in Niger State while Maiduguri is rocked by violence

Play for believers in Nigeria today!
The blast in the Suleja church occurred just after 3 p.m., as several church members were taking part in a committee meeting after the church service, reports Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

Two people died on the spot, including the wife of the committee chair. Four others were critically injured, and were rushed to hospital, where one died.

Suleja is situated close to the Nigerian capital, Abuja. The area may have been picked as a softer target, since security in the capital has been tightened and a curfew is in place there.

Although no group has claimed responsibility for the blast, the attack follows unconfirmed reports of a message issued by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram warning Nigerians to avoid Christians, security agents and government institutions and functions, or risk death.

Over the weekend, the northeastern city of Maiduguri suffered a further upsurge in violence.

On Saturday night, multiple explosions rocked parts of Maiduguri. Also on Saturday, members of the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) charged with security in the state are reported to have gone “on a rampage and caused a lot of havoc” after an army patrol was targeted in a bomb and gun attack by Boko Haram.

According to local residents, the military closed off the area where the attack occurred, and went from house to house rounding up and executing males within a certain age bracket, who were deemed to be possible members of Boko Haram.

On Sunday, churches in Maiduguri remained closed following the previous night’s violence and warnings of imminent targeted attacks by the Islamist group.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Your prayers and letters make a difference!

In March 2009, Christian roommates Maryam Rustampoor, 29, and Marzieh Amirizadeh, 32, were charged by the Iranian state with being "anti-government activists." They spent 259 days in Tehran's notorious Evin prison before being released in November 2009.

Our sister mission in the United States recently posted their first interview since their release. The pair discussed their life in prison with Sam Yeghnazar of Elam Ministries.

Take a few moments to read the transcript and be encouraged. Your letters and prayers DO make a difference!

Be blessed!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pray for Sudan and Sudanese believers!

Tomorrow, the Republic of South Sudan will become a country.

While the South's leaders have high hopes for the new state of South Sudan, the new country will face many challenges, as it will be ranked at the bottom of the Human Development index, has limited physical and economic infrastructure and has several already-formed armed groups within its borders.

Sudanese Christians need our continued prayers for a number of reasons, reports Middle East Concern.

First, the citizenship and residential status of those of Southern origin living in the North, many of whom are Christian, remains unclear. There is a fear that some will lose their right to stay, causing Northern Christians, especially those from Muslim backgrounds, to be in a more vulnerable position.

There are also fears that Churches in the North may face further restrictions on their freedom of worship if the government in the North implements a strict form of Shariah on all residents.

Second, there have been violent clashes in several Northern provinces near the North-South border. These clashes are politically motivated, with loyalty and control of resources among the motivations. The attacked communities include Christians, some of whom have been displaced.

Third, amid violence in South Kordofan, the North's forces targeted community leaders and important institutions, which are mainly churches and mosques. Incidents have raised fears among Christians that others would be targeted, and that the authorities and/or the United Nations would not act to protect them.

Lastly, there have also been clashes within Southern provinces near the border. These are primarily about the degree of local autonomy and share of national resources.

Please pray that:
  • The rights of all Christians, particularly those in Northern Sudan, will be respected.
  • There will be an end to violence throughout Sudan.
  • Those bereaved will know Jesus' comfort; those wounded or traumatized will know Jesus' healing touch and those displaced Jesus' presence.
  • Church leaders will be guided by the Spirit as they exercise their ministries at this time.
  • The South will receive appropriate assistance to support those displaced from Abyei, South Kordofan and other areas of conflict.
  • The governments of North and South will rule justly for the benefit of all citizens, with equitable allocation of national resources to all provinces.

Witnessing recommendations encourage Christ-like conduct

This document encourages Christian conduct
for believers living in multi-religious communities.
A five-page document with recommendations for Christian witnessing has been released after five years of negotiation, reports the World Council of Churches (WCC).

The document received consultations from the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue and the World Evangelical Alliance. Along with the WCC, these bodies claim to represent nearly 90 percent of the world’s Christians.

The document (available here) says its purpose is to provide guidelines for church councils and mission agencies for witnessing among different religions.

“It is hoped that Christians across the world will study this document in the light of their own practices in witnessing to their faith in Christ, both by word and deed,” reads the introduction.

It goes on to outline the Christian’s need to imitate Christ in acts of service and justice and pray for the forward motion of Christ’s mission. It also specifically outlines a principle for Christians to reject violence in all forms, including abuse of power.

“[Christians] … reject violence, unjust discrimination or repression by any religious or secular authority, including the violation or destruction of places of worship, sacred symbols or texts,” the document states.

You can read WCC’s full article on the release of the document here.

What do you think? Is this document helpful in uniting Christians around the world in a purposeful dedication to Christ-like conduct, love, and bold witness?

Blessed are the persecuted? (Part 3)

Do you consider the persecuted
to be blessed?
Written by Glenn Penner

This article concludes our three-part exploration of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, where Jesus states the persecuted are blessed. Below are the remaining principles regarding persecution that we can learn from Jesus’ teaching. 

4. There are tremendous past, present, and future promises that the persecuted can take hold of. In verse 10, the disciples are assured, along with the “poor in spirit” (v.3), that they are possessors of the kingdom of heaven. The parallel between the two is not accidental. The "poor in spirit" are those to whom the message of the gospel has been preached by the Servant of God (see Isaiah 61:1).

In turn, like the Servant, they have been rejected and despised because they have taken up the Servant's mission: to proclaim the gospel to all nations. They have therefore become possessors of the kingdom of heaven, partakers in a sovereignty ruled by God. This kingdom is already partially present, experienced in part by those who, by faith, have submitted to God's kingly rule over their lives. Its final culmination is still in the future and it is that which the disciples anticipate. In the present, however, they experience ridicule, persecution, and slander (verse 11), as they actively seek to bring others into the kingdom. The additional promise of verse 12 differs from those in the preceding Beatitudes in that it is much more complex. The promise to the persecuted in verse 12 is declared in two causal clauses. The first looks forward to the reward in heaven; the second looks back to the pattern of suffering experienced by the prophets in God's redemptive plan. Disciples are assured that that they will be rewarded in heaven for their service for God. There is hope of better things because of the coming kingdom of God. They are also assured, as we noted earlier, that suffering for the sake of the kingdom is not unusual; indeed, it is the experience of all of God's messengers. The persecuted stand in good company and can be assured that God is present in their ministry. Because of these future and past promises, they can rejoice in the present (verse 12).

5. Persecution will be inevitable. The language used here depicts a situation where persecution is the expected norm for those who choose to follow Him. Jesus wants His disciples to understand right from the start that the path of Christ is not always an easy one. It is the right path, however, even though the world will sometimes move beyond ridicule, misunderstanding, and denunciation to violent rejection—seeking not only to silence the message of the gospel, but to remove the very presence of the messenger.

Glenn Penner, former CEO of The Voice of the Martyrs Canada, passed away in January 2010. Glenn was passionate about researching and teaching the theology of persecution. For more of his writing, you can check out his book, In the Shadow of the Cross, at

Thursday, July 7, 2011

New developments in case of Iranian pastor sentenced to death

Youcef Nardharkhani and his wife
Last month, Youcef Nardarkhani, an Iranian pastor convicted of apostasy for leaving Islam, had his death sentence for apostasy upheld and confirmed by the Iranian Supreme Court.

On July 3, Pastor Youcef’s lawyer reported that his case was being returned to the Revolutionary Tribunal of Gilan Province and that the Supreme Court would annul the sentence if Youcef renounced his faith.

Iranian Christians are emphasizing, however, that reports indicating Pastor Youcef’s case has already been annulled are misleading, as the annulment is dependent on him recanting his faith and embracing Islam (sources include Middle East Concern, Mohabat News and Present Truth Ministries).

Pastor Youcef thus remains at serious risk of execution and continues to face extreme pressure to deny Christ.

The Revolutionary Tribunal has been instructed to give Youcef more time in which to recant his faith in Jesus, which suggests that while the death sentence remains against him it may not be as imminent as first thought. There remains some uncertainty, however, as Pastor Youcef’s lawyer has yet to receive written confirmation of the death sentence verdict.

You can help by praying!
  • Pray Pastor Youcef will be exonerated and released.
  • Pray he will continue to find encouragement and strength in Christ in prison.
  • Pray Iranian officials operating in corrupt and oppressive ways will repent of their actions and come to embrace Christ as Lord.
  • Pray Christians in Iran will set their minds on Christ as they serve Him amid opposition (1 Corinthians 1:10).

Blessed are the persecuted? (Part 2)

Do you consider the persecuted
to be blessed?
Written by Glenn Penner

This continues an exploration of Matthew 5:10-12, where Christ teaches that those who are persecuted are blessed. How do we understand this passage when so often we in the West consider ourselves blessed for living in freedom? Today, we’ll look at three principles regarding persecution.

In order to gain Jesus’ perspective on the blessedness of persecution, it is essential that we understand what He is teaching in this central passage. Several principles regarding persecution stand out from this passage:
  1. The most basic, but not to be overlooked, principle is that this suffering is “on my account.” It is for Christ's cause. Men and women suffer in His service for the fulfillment of His purposes in the world. Ultimately, God's people do not suffer for their faith; they suffer for Him.
  2. Jesus directs the disciples’ attention to the fate of the prophets, God's messengers in past generations. He means to instruct that they, like Him, are in the line of the prophets; they are God's messengers to the world of their time. They have been chosen specifically for this purpose—to preach God's message given to them by Jesus. After Jesus was killed, they would take His place and continue His ministry. In Matthew 16, Jesus will shock them with the assertion that in order to accomplish the purposes of God, it was necessary for Him and for all who follow after Him to take up their cross. Suffering, sacrifice, and rejection are the norm for those who truly serve as God's messengers. Christ's cross will provide the means of salvation; the disciple's cross will provide the means by which this salvation is taken to the world. Christ's cross is for propitiation; the disciple's cross is for propagation. Both crosses are needed if the message of the kingdom is to be taken into a world in rebellion to its Creator.
  3. The disciples are not only to stoically accept the evil done to them by others, but they are to rejoice and be glad. Later in verses 39, 44 and 45, they are instructed to love those who persecute them. As witnesses, their role was to bring the persecutors to God and to salvation. The persecuted are to be in service to those who cause them suffering. Just as the Father gives light and rain to those who revile Him and refuse to love Him, so are His children to bring blessings to those who curse them, seeking the good for those who seek only to do them harm.
Glenn Penner, former CEO of The Voice of the Martyrs Canada, passed away in January 2010. Glenn was passionate about researching and teaching the theology of persecution. For more of his writing on this topic, please check out his book, In the Shadow of the Cross, at

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Muslims threaten to kill priest in Egypt

Recently there has been an increase
of reports of Christian persecution in
Egypt’s Minya region.
Last week, we told you about the kidnapping of two Christian girls in the province of Minya, Egypt – an incident that added to an already long list of violence in the area.

The Assyrian International News Agency reports a Coptic priest in the same region was threatened late last week by a mob of Muslims that surrounded the church of St. George.

Father George Thabet was serving the morning mass when hundreds of Muslims, some armed, surrounded the church vowing to kill him.

Eye-witnesses reported the Muslims chanted, “We will kill the priest, we will kill him and no one will prevent us." One Muslim said they would "…cut him to pieces."

Security forces arrived and escorted Father George in a police car to the Coptic Diocese in Minya. Youth from the church remained to defend the building from the Muslims.

The Muslim attacks on St. George church began when the church began legal renovations on their building. The Muslims demanded they cease construction and ordered Father George to leave the area, giving him a 50-day time limit.

Muslims have been gathering around the church since June 21 when they learned that Father George had returned.

Pray for Egyptian Christians!
  • Pray for safety for Father George and his family amidst the threats on his life.
  • Pray that the ministry of churches in Egypt will continue and that the Gospel will be preached throughout this nation.
  • Pray that Muslims in Minya will come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Blessed are the persecuted? (Part 1)

Do you consider the persecuted
to be blessed?
Written by Glenn Penner 

We originally ran this series by Glenn Penner back in July 2006. Its challenging message is too relevant not to share again! Join us as we explore “Blessed are the persecuted?” in the next three days. 

Isn't it ironic that whereas the early Christians expressed gratitude for the privilege of suffering for Christ, we often thank God for the privilege of not suffering for Him? We say that we are blessed for living in a country where we are not being persecuted. Yet, we fail to reconcile this with what Jesus said in Matthew 5, when He declared that blessed are those who are persecuted. It is the persecuted who gain the kingdom of heaven.

Unfortunately, the Beatitudes are so familiar to many of us that I suspect they have lost their intended impact. We do not feel the sting that the early listeners must have felt when Jesus calls “blessed” those whom the world calls unfortunate or even cursed. He congratulates those whom the world would pity. He encourages attitudes and conduct that the world would discourage: the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers.

Now, conceivably, we might be able to see positive aspects to each of these first seven attitudes. But in verse 10, Jesus calls “blessed” those whom I would suspect almost no one would consider blessed: those who suffer for doing what is right.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:10-12).

Glenn Penner, former CEO of The Voice of the Martyrs Canada, passed away in January 2010. Glenn was passionate about researching and teaching the theology of persecution. For more of his writing, you can check out his book, In the Shadow of the Cross, at

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Prisoner of faith: Vahik Abrahamian

Pastor Vahik Abrahamian
has been imprisoned in
Iran since September 2010.
Pastor Vahik Abrahamian and his wife Sonia Keshish-Avanesian were visiting with friends at their home in Hamadan, west Iran, on September 4, 2010, when the authorities arrived. The four were arrested and taken to the Ministry of Islamic Guidance prison.

For the first 40 days, they were held in solitary confinement and reportedly suffered physical abuse and psychological pressure. They were accused of various offenses, including propagating Christianity, opposing the Islamic Republic of Iran, and having contact with exiled opposition figures. They were later transferred to Iran’s notorious Evin prison in Tehran. They have not yet been charged.

Thankfully, Sonia was released from prison a few weeks ago. At the time, officials told her that her husband would be released 10 days later. Unfortunately, that has not yet happened.

Pastor Vahik was arrested once before, on February 20, 2010, on charges of conducting activities among Muslims. He spent two months in prison before being released on bail. Pastor Vahik has dual citizenship in Iran and the Netherlands, but because of his passion for the Iranian people he chose to live in Iran.

You can write a letter of encouragement to Pastor Vahik as he suffers for righteousness’ sake!

When writing, do not mention The Voice of the Martyrs or the source of your information. It is not dangerous for a prisoner to receive letters from individuals, but if an organization is mentioned they may be accused of having links with “foreign organizations.” Also, be sure to avoid mentioning anything negative about their government.

To compose a letter in Pastor Vahik’s own language, please visit Click on his profile and then click “Write an encouraging letter.”  For more information on writing letters to prisoners, please visit our website.

Please send your letters to:
Vahik Abrahamian
Evin Prison
Saadat Abad
Islamic Republic of Iran

Rome: Ptolemaeus

“Are you a Christian?” Three times the question was asked. Three times the answer was, “Yes.” Three Christians were martyred. The Roman ruler Urbicus had no tolerance for Christians in A.D. 150.

Ptolemaeus had been accused of teaching that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ alone. He hated the deceit and ungodliness of the day. Therefore when Urbicus asked if he was a Christian, he could not lie. He had to stand for righteousness and boldly answer, “Yes.”  For this he was put in chains and beaten many times.

Again he was brought before Urbicus. Again he was only asked one question, “Are you a Christian?”

Pain and suffering could not change reality. “Yes,” Ptolemaeus answered again.

Hearing of Ptolemaeus’ arrests, an elderly man approached Urbicus and pleaded for his soul. “Why would you execute such a fine teacher? What benefit does it serve you or the emperor? He has broken no laws. He has only confessed to being a Christian.”

Intrigued by the man’s defense, he asked a single question. “Are you also a Christian?”  The elderly man courageously stood his ground, “Yes. I am.”

“Then you may join the teacher.”

If this was not enough, another man came forward with the same protest. Again the question was asked, “Are you a Christian?”

The three children of God were executed for answering, “Yes.”

The question is simple enough. “Are you a Christian?” It’s direct. It’s personal. It’s a yes/no point of truth. Then what is difficult about the answer? The problem is not that Christians don’t know how to answer. The real problem is that others aren’t asking us the question often enough. We don’t live in such a distinct way that anyone thinks to ask what is different about our lives. We must admit far too few people are asking us the question asked of Ptolemaeus. That is the real problem. When is the last time your lifestyle piqued the interest of your coworker, friend, or neighbor—enough for them to inquire about your faith? You know the answer—now live so that others will ask the question.

Excerpted from Extreme Devotion, a devotional book that includes 365 true accounts of men and women who totally sold out for Jesus. You can order a copy by contacting our office or by ordering online.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Pulling out of Afghanistan may cause trouble for Christians

Obama's move to pull troops out of
Afghanistan could mean trouble
for Afghan Christians.
VOM USA’s Todd Nettleton was recently interviewed by Mission Network News (MNN) regarding the U.S. removal of troops from Afghanistan.

The president of the United States, Barack Obama, is bringing home 33,000 troops from Afghanistan over the next 15 months. That will leave about 70,000 troops in Afghanistan. While many welcome the announcement, others are sceptical about what that means for Afghans.

“There is not a great deal of confidence in the Afghan security forces to protect religious freedom,” said Nettleton.

The circumstances surround the U.S. removal of troops is reminiscent of Russia’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989. A believer in Afghanistan at the time told Nettleton, “The Taliban has shaved their beards, and they've taken off their black turbans, but they're still here.”

With fewer forces to oppose the Taliban, today’s Christians in Afghanistan are concerned they will increase in strength and things could get worse for believers.

“There is all likelihood that there will continue to be persecution of Christians; there will continue to be Christians who will be laying down their lives because of their faith,” said Nettleton.

Christians make up 0.05 per cent of Afghanistan’s population while Muslims make up over 99 per cent. There are fears that the overwhelming number of Muslims egged on by the Taliban could bode very badly for Afghan Christians.

“Their interpretation of being a devout Muslim means that they should attack Christians, that a person who leaves Islam is an apostate and deserves to be killed,” said Nettleton.

There are already signs of that extremist attitude gaining ground. Just days prior to President Obama’s announcement, a video of a Christian in Herat Province being beheaded by Afghan militants was released.

Nettleton also says that "one of the things to remember is that security comes ultimately from Christ, it comes ultimately from God. It's not from U.S. troops, from a gun, or from a big fence around our houses."

Pray for Afghanistan's Christians!
  • Pray that Christians in Afghanistan will stand strong in their faith and reach out to their neighbours, despite their small numbers.
  • Pray for a peaceful transition and for increased religious freedom.
  • Pray for those in the Taliban. Pray that they will come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

In mailboxes this week

The July issue of The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter is hitting mailboxes this week.

Inside this issue:

Ministering to children – When grown-ups face persecution, they often know how to deal with it. For their children, it is a different matter. Read how VOM is helping children whose parents have been persecuted in Sri Lanka, India and Nigeria.

“Let the children come to Me” – Their house was set on fire and the father threatened with death. “I can bear this,” he said, “but what about my children?” Read how a kids’ camp is helping children facing persecution in Sri Lanka.

Flashback – Learn how VOM has been ministering to the children of martyrs as we celebrate 40 years of ministry.

Christian martyrs – Ottoman invaders captured Constantin Brancoveanu with his treasurer and four sons in the 18th century. Read how he refused to turn his back on Christ and encouraged his sons to stand firm.

“Listen to the martyr’s voice” – Read an excerpted message from Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who brings a lesson from the imprisonment of John the Baptist.

The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter is the flagship publication of The Voice of the Martyrs in Canada. Published monthly, it is available free of charge to anyone in Canada who requests it.

You can subscribe online here.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Pastor and believers detained in Cuba

Cuba is a popular vacation spot, but behind the
hotels lies a government hostile to Christians.
Pastor Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso and his wife, Yoaxis, along with 21 others were detained and kept from attending a church service on June 26, reports Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

The group was picked up by police at around 10 a.m. and released five hours later, after the service had finished.

The service was being held in support of Pastor Yordi Toranzo, who was ousted from his position for refusing to deny pastoral support to human rights activists and members of the political opposition.

The order for his expulsion came from Methodist Bishop Ricardo Pereira Dias, who church authorities generally believe was pressured by the government. There have been reports of similar pressures on other church leaders as well.

Authorities have been detaining pastors for only short periods of time – a tactic CSW believes is used to deflect international attention away from governmental interference.

In 1992, Cuba officially became a “secular” state that formally guarantees freedom of religion. However, full freedom is not experienced by many minorities. Authorities continue to pressure Christian believers through coercion and intimidation.

Pray for Cuba:
  • Pray that the Church in Cuba will continue to reach out with the news of God's grace, despite the opposition from the government.
  • Pray that freedom of religion will truly become a reality in Cuba.

Recent outbursts of persecution in Uzbekistan

At least four Christians were
persecuted recently in Uzbekistan.
At least four Christians faced religious persecution in the former Soviet country of Uzbekistan this week, reports the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA-RLC).

One woman is recovering from a concussion resulting from severe beatings. Another woman was fined for giving the New Testament to a child. One Christian man was threatened with an axe by a police officer, while another man was assaulted by police.

These incidents of persecution come in the wake of a recent effort by Uzbekistan’s president, Islam Karimov, to maintain his power over the repressed people. The WEA-RLC notes his renewed dictatorial actions seem to be a preemptive effort to stem any sign of revolt by the people, who may try to emulate the revolutions taking place in the Middle East and North Africa.

Karimov claims the intensified restrictions are in response to Muslim extremists such as the Islamic Jihad Union, which targeted government installations in 2009. However, civil restrictions on minorities in Uzbekistan predate these recent events.

Religious communities in Uzbekistan are currently required to register. Unregistered churches are forcibly closed and evangelism, missionary activity and religious instruction are formally forbidden.

While the distribution of religious material is permitted by Uzbekistan law, it must first be approved by the State Committee for Religious Affairs. Bibles and other Christian literature and media are often confiscated by officials.

Pray for Uzbekistan’s Christians!
  • Pray for continued strength for Christians facing charges and harassment from authorities.
  • Pray that the government of Uzbekistan will respect human rights in the county.
  • Pray that Uzbekistan’s Christians will continue to witness Christ, remembering that the Gospel will accomplish when and what God pleases (Isaiah 55:11).